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In search of the best AND cheapest...

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Greets! I am planning a promotional tour on a shoestring budget and need to find the best low-end hound hangs. Itinerary in the South includes the following legs:

Nashville to Memphis
Washington DC to Charlotte to Atlanta to Birmingham to Nashville

Pretty much anything goes when it comes to food, but I'm thinking downhome, Q and meat-and-threes along this stretch.

Let the recs fly and TIA!

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  1. Is this a road trip with stops between the above destinations?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Windsor

      Stops to eat and gas up. Our business is in the major market areas. Need recs for both in town and on the road...

      1. re: GroovinGourmet

        How far off the main roads do you want to go? How much time do you have? You've only got about 6.5 hours from DC to Charlotte. And Charlotte to Atlanta is only about 4 hours.

        1. re: mojoeater

          Keaton's in Cleveland, NC (about 6 miles off I-77) - great barbecue chicken.

          1. re: mojoeater

            Willing to go up to an hour out of our interstate route.

            I made the Indy-Bloomington roundtrip twice in 2 nights to avail myself of the wonders coming out of Restaurant Tallent's kitchen, so that should give you an idea of my dedication...

            :D

        2. re: Windsor

          Zeroing in on things, so I figured I'd post some mealtimes and corresponding locations to help with more suggestions. Payne's BBQ in Memphis looks awesome, and is definitely on for lunch our first full day out. Need a dinner rec between Memphis and Cape Girardeau, MO. Thought I recalled someone posting about BBQ in Arkansas, but can't seem to find it.

          Won't be back in the region for a couple of weeks, and need a good dinner stop between Washington DC and Richmond, VA.

          Next day has us traveling from Richmond to Charlotte. If there's a killer 'hound spot along I-95 we'll do it. If not, we'll follow I-85 into Durham and catch Raleigh
          before taking the backroads into Charlotte, so any recs along those routes would be much appreciated.

          Next day is I-85 through South Carolina, into the northern Atlanta suburbs, so we'll be looking for lunch and dinner along the way.

          I've got Atlanta covered (Bobby & Junes for lunch, The Varsity on our way out of town) and as there are no cheap rooms in Auburn due to football, we'll be heading to Columbus for the night before heading over to Montgomery. Any good breakfast spots in Phenix City or Tuskegee? No lunch that day as we will be splurging at Highlands Bar & Grill that night.

          Need recs for Sunday in Birmingham and then for lunch Monday in Huntsville. Shooting for dinner at Bell Buckle Inn that night on our way to Murfreesboro, unless someone can point me to some place way better.

          We're then in Nashville for a day and a half before heading to back to Murfreesboro for a presentation at MTSU. I'm sure we'll hit Jack's BBQ for lunch, but could use recs for any groovy new places that have opened in the last 3 years (last time I was in town). And seeing as we will be ending our (hopefully smashingly successful) tour in Music City, a final splurge meal will probably be in order. FYI, my last $$$ in Nashville was Wild Boar, and while I was impressed with the service, I was completely underwhelmed by the food. Great sounding menu items, but poor or mis-guided execution.

          1. re: GroovinGourmet

            Skip Jacks and go to Hog Heaven instead. It's 3 miles out West End Avenue, next to Centennial Park, behind the newly rebuilt MacDonald's.

            To spend some dough in a luxurious setting, Flyte (I had an incredible meal here -- the meat is just extraordinary, and the wine list sent me reeling. Get one of the kitchen tables). Watermark -- I had a good meal here, but I found it to be just another overhyped $26 salmon without the provenance and service and clear signs of loving care that I saw at Flyte.
            Acorn (I love this place, but someone told me the cooking had slipped a little).
            Capitol Grille in the Hermitage Hotel -- gorgeous space, great food, adorable bar attached
            Your trip sounds fantastic -- bon voyage!

            1. re: fluffernutter

              Agree with the suggestion of Hog Heaven over Jack's for BBQ, so try it out. For your splurge meal I would hit Zola or Acorn on West End. As for fluffernutter's comment above that someone has said the cooking has slipped....it HAD, but now it's back better than ever thanks to a new chef. We ate their recently with a group and everyone loved their meal. Not a bad dish in the bunch. That said, Zola is truly one of the best restaurants in Nashville and I recommend it above and beyond any others. It is consistently great, and the menu is always fresh and seasonal.

        3. In Memphis, the ultimate combination of best and cheap is Payne's BBQ for a pork sandwich. Lots of other great inexpensive BBQ to be had, but if I were to hit one place, that would be it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: biskuit

            Sounds like a plan! Keep 'em coming. I've got a few weeks and want to start setting the calendar.

          2. You did say back roads from Raleigh to Charlotte. Joyce and Family serves incredible down home food.

            -----
            Joyce & Family Restaurant
            135 S Main St, Fuquay Varina, NC 27526

            1 Reply
            1. re: AreBe

              Thanks for the tip. As it turns out, we've changed our route to meet up with a buddy in Lexington and do a BBQ crawl. Can I eat 5 small trays of pulled pork? We'll find out...

            2. In Charlotte, one of the best-known and most-loved cheap eats is Price's Chicken Coop, take-out only.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Izzybee

                I think I'm the only person in town who thinks Price's is WAY overrated. There are a lot of great restaurants, and cheap ones too, in Charlotte though.

                1. re: Izzybee

                  I have to agree with you on Price's - love it.

                  If you're looking for meat & 3's, try Dish in Plaza-Midwood, Mert's Heart & Soul downtown, Diamond on Commonwealth and Gus' Sir Beef on Monroe. And don't forget the Coffee Cup - it's been around forever. I believe they're relocating somewhere on McDowell, downtown Charlotte. Bill Spoon's for vinegar-based BBQ, on South Blvd. Just saw BBQ King on "Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives" - looks worth checking out on Wilkinson Blvd.

                2. Just west of metro Atlanta, in downtown Douglasville is Gumbeaux's - the best Cajun in metro Atlanta. Prices are reasonable and quantities are impressive. Exit I-20 into Douglasville, turn left on US 278 and Gumbeaux's is on your left.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Milt

                    Thanks, Milt! Might be just the thing on our drive out of Atlanta.

                    1. re: GroovinGourmet

                      how sad that as a fairly new to richmonder i was just waiting for someone to post about the beginning half of your trip. thus reinforcing my opinion that while this is a great cityin which to live it is a fairly dreadful one in which to eat! :)
                      anyone... anyone...

                      1. re: AMFM

                        Schedule has changed a bit, but it looks like we'll be grabbing lunch in Richmond before heading down to Raleigh to catch a concert. I have dug up Maclean, which looks like a good meat+3 kinda place. But the site I found it on, Restaurant Row, is not known for being current. Is Maclean still in business, and is it any good?

                        1. re: GroovinGourmet

                          I would skip McLean's for a meat & 3 place. I would suggest Comfort (off of 95 just east of Belvidere on Broad Street) or possibly Croaker's Spot.

                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                            Both places look good, but definitely on the high end of our lunch budget. Anything in particular you don't like about McLean's? There were good recs in another thread and price looks right.

                            1. re: GroovinGourmet

                              I don't think McLeans is "bad", I just don't think it's memorable or the best of what Richmond has to offer. My Dh loves it though, so he would recommend it (though he does like Comfort better).

                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                Thanks for the clarification. I think we'll be giving them a shot. The location is on route and the price is right.

                  2. For Birmingham, check out www.bhamdining.com; you might want to try browsing the barbecue and meat-and-three categories, and maybe the sandwiches and casual listings too. Sundays are a bit of a challenge because a lot of places are closed, so I would call whatever place you're interested in first to check on their hours. A couple of other threads on the South board you might want to check out:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/434388 (BBQ
                    )http://www.chowhound.com/topics/401727 (Soul food
                    )http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429277 (cheap eats)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: bhamdining

                      Great link. Thanks!

                      Our schedule has changed, so we're only in town for the day. Dinner is most definitely Highlands, still trying to determine whether it's Q or meat and 3 for lunch.

                      1. re: GroovinGourmet

                        If you're staying in the Southside, Birmingham turns into a bit of a ghost town on Sundays as far as eats. Also as any fyi, most of the meat and 3s are steam table service. Not that steam table service is bad per se, but don't necessarily expect someone cooking up that piece of fried chicken to order in a skillet in the back.

                        1. re: Dax

                          I frequented the Social Grill for years, so I am well aware of what a meat and 3 is all about. And I don't eat much fried chicken, so it's not an issue.

                          1. re: GroovinGourmet

                            While in Nashville, is your heart set on bbq? Hog Heaven is a great place for a sandwich, but Payne's it is not. Why not try a meat-n-3, maybe Sylvan Park, Arnold's, or Swett's? I don't think any o these would dissapoint. Also, I have been working my way through Nashville's contemporary restaurants this year and have to say that the most progressive and interesting right now is Flyte. Chef Ben is really pushing himself there, and while many other places (Zola, Margot, Capitol Grille) are putting out consistently great food, Flyte trumps them all in innovation. Give it a try.

                            1. re: notgreg

                              Thanks notgreg! I have all 3 of your Mn3 Nashville recs already google mapped. By the time we return to town we will be BBQ'd out. And thanks for the tip on Flyte. I will check out the menu. Hopefully there will be reason for a celebratory meal after 3.5 weeks and about 5000 miles.